Activists want to start a conversation by attempting to silence one on Facebook.
Civil rights group the NAACP has called on people to #LogOutFacebook in a digital protest of the company’s handling of black users’ data exposed by security breaches. The protest comes after the Senate Intelligence Committee revealed that the Russian influence campaign during the 2016 election “made an extraordinary effort to target African-Americans” on Facebook FB, +1.92%
The organization said Facebook did not do enough to quickly detect and thwart these efforts. The NAACP will go dark on Facebook and Instagram for the next week and has called on supporters to do the same for one day on Dec. 18.
“We’re holding Facebook accountable for the role it played in fueling racial tensions during the 2016 Presidential election,” Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and chief executive officer, told MarketWatch in a statement. “The way in which they handled the data breach, which targeted African-Americans was negligent at best and exploitative at worst. Facebook needs to acknowledge how it has undervalued people of color over the past two years.”
Separately, a coalition of more than three dozen social advocacy groups including Center for Media Justice, MoveOn and the Southern Poverty Law Center called on Facebook to remove chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg from the company’s board on Tuesday. The coalition also called for the removal of Facebook head of public policy Joel Kaplan, a former George W. Bush staffer, from his position.
This is not Facebook’s first experience with criticisms surrounding diversity. Some have been directed at the company’s internal culture. One former employee charged in a company-wide memo upon leaving the company in November that Facebook has “a black problem,” accusing Facebook of failing its African-American users and employees. He said the company often asked black employees to weigh in on questions regarding diversity rather than dedicating paid staff to the issue.
The NAACP and other organizations are calling for further Congressional investigation of Facebook and the spread of misinformation on the platform, especially as it pertains to people of color.
Color of Change, an online racial justice organization, has been in negotiations with Facebook to publicly release findings of a civil rights audit examining the impacts of the company’s policies on marginalized communities. The New York Times reported in November that Facebook hired a Republican opposition firm to push reporters to “explore the financial connections” between George Soros, a liberal billionaire, and organizations agitating against it, including Color of Change.
After denying she knew that Facebook had targeted Soros, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg later said, “It was never anyone’s intention to play into an anti-Semitic narrative against Mr. Soros or anyone else.”
“The fact of the matter is that Facebook has not moved with the type of energy necessary to address this problem,” Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change said. “Every day we learn more and more about how this platform that is supposed to bring people together has driven such a deep and destructive wedge into our community.”
Facebook said in a statement it is “grateful” for the feedback from the NAACP and other civil rights groups. The company said it has added more than three dozen privacy controls, created a privacy governance team, and doubled its security team from 10,000 to 20,000.
“We’re listening, and we agree that we have areas that we can improve,” a Facebook spokeswoman said. “We have acknowledged and apologized for the security incidents and privacy missteps we’ve had in the past, and we continue to invest in solutions to keep our platform safe and improve.”
Since May, Facebook has been working on a “civil rights audit” to address the critiques from the NAACP and other organizations. It released preliminary findings from the audit on Tuesday. In the findings, Facebook promised to devote more resources to fighting discrimination in its advertising policies, developing comprehensive privacy measures, fighting voter suppression, and moderating hate speech on the platform.
Facebook previously pushed back against criticisms of its handling of the Russian interference. “As Mark and Sheryl made clear to Congress, the company was too slow to spot Russian interference, and too slow to take action,” Facebook’s board of directors said in a statement released in November. “As a board we did indeed push them to move faster. But to suggest that they knew about Russian interference and either tried to ignore it or prevent investigations into what had happened is grossly unfair.”